Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Saturday, February 11, 2012

How One DEA Agent began a brutal Drugwar

"Kiki" Camarena

Twenty seven years ago, the kidnap, torture and murder of a US Drug Enforcement Administration agent by Mexican drug traffickers sparked one of the biggest manhunts the US government has ever launched in North America.

It also offered an ominous warning of things to come.

The picturesque Mexican city of Guadalajara is bustling with life. By day, its busy plazas are filled with street vendors and shoeshine boys. At night, the mariachis line up to play for the tourists.

The country's drug violence feels very far from here and, most of the time, it is. But that was not always the case.

"In 1985, Guadalajara was the base of operations for most of the major narcotics traffickers in North America," says James Kuykendall, then-head of the Guadalajara office of the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

"Many of the major traffickers from other parts of Mexico, especially the state of Sinaloa, had migrated to Guadalajara both for the scenery and for the politics: if they didn't have full immunity, certainly no-one was messing with them down there."

Among the agents working out of the small office was a 37-year-old Mexican-born American, Enrique "Kiki" Camarena. The father of three was involved in some undercover work, posing as a potential buyer to narcotics traffickers. Camarena's former boss remembers that he was particularly adept at the role.

"He was not involved in deep undercover work as I would define it," Mr Kuykendall says from Texas, where he now lives and works.

he undercover work which was done was mostly to find out who was doing what, what sort of drugs they were dealing in, what quantities...

"The other agents in the office were doing the same thing, but Kiki was just a little better at it. A little more motivated."

It was work which would eventually get him killed.
Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo EL JEFE DE JEFES

On 7 February 1985, Enrique Camarena was bundled into a car on the street outside the DEA office in Guadalajara while on his way to meet his wife for lunch.

He had barely a month left on his posting to Mexico before his transfer to San Diego. But he would never be seen alive again.

"I was certain something had happened," says Mr Kuykendall of the moment Camarena's wife called to say the agent was missing.

"We had been threatened by the major traffickers, and there was no way Kiki would go out and get lost without notifying one of us. We were all very close at that time."

What followed was a huge manhunt for both Camarena and a Mexican pilot used by the DEA, Alfredo Zavala Avelar, who had also disappeared the same day.

The Reagan administration put great pressure on the government of Mexico to find the missing men, with the US Customs Agency taking the unprecedented step of all but closing the border to traffic from Mexico.

With cross-border trade reduced to a trickle, bilateral relations at an all-time low and all the major US news agencies travelling to Guadalajara to cover the kidnapping, the DEA was in the eye of major diplomatic storm.

Unfortunately for Kiki Camarena, it was all to no avail.

Capturing kingpins

Thirty days after he was taken, his body, along with that of the pilot, turned up in the Mexican state of Michoacán. They were dumped at the roadside and showed signs of torture.
The bodies of Camarena and Zavala arrive in Zamora Michoacan

What had been a search for the two men became a search for their killers, as the DEA launched its biggest-ever homicide investigation: Operacion Leyenda.
Three men were identified as having ordered the kidnap and murder: the heads of the then all-powerful Guadalajara cartel.

Their names are forever synonymous with drug trafficking in Mexico: Ernesto "Don Neto" Fonseca, Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo and Rafael Caro Quintero.

Fonseca was arrested by April of that year, as was Quintero, who had fled to Costa Rica following an alleged tip-off from a senior figure in the Mexican police. He was finally apprehended in a wiretap operation.

Gallardo was able to evade capture until 1989
Although all three kingpins were caught, there are elements of their arrest which still rankle Mr Kuykendall.

"The United States dragged its feet," he recalls. "I'm pretty sure Caro Quintero will spend the rest of his life in prison in Mexico, but it would have been better to bring him to the United States for trial, so we could have learnt who in the Mexican government had been protecting him."

For many analysts, the Camarena killing marked a key turning point in the fight against drug trafficking in Mexico.
Quintaro from Periodico Mural
First, it broke up the Guadalajara cartel into splinter groups, which formed the basis of today's powerful drug organisations.

Among them is the Sinaloa cartel, led by a former protege of Felix Gallardo Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, currently considered the most powerful drug trafficker in the world.

Secondly, and perhaps more significantly, it marked a new level of brazenness by the cartels.

To kidnap a DEA agent in broad daylight from outside the heavily-protected US consulate building, and to torture and murder him, was further than they had ever gone before.

For Camarena's former boss, however, the extent of the violence currently experienced in Mexico is simply evidence that the lessons from the mid-1980s, about breaking down the links between state institutions and the drug traffickers, were never learned

"It is tragic that [the violence] has transformed such a beautiful country into a place where people are afraid to venture out of their homes and afraid to travel between cities. That's not Mexico," says Kuykendall.
"Unfortunately Kiki's death didn't have the impact it should have had."

All Photos added, Text Unedited


  1. KIKI was a crooked SOB who stole and got popped.
    dont believe any of the B.S. about him being a hero and all that shit, even the Doctor who supposedly was inviolved had his case dropped.

    1. he was undercover you stupid motherfucker, you have to be crooked its your job

    2. Lol. What proof of such accusations do you have. I did say proof not fiction or fantasy.

    3. Watch the old movie called drug wars its all about caro quintero and the guadalajara cArtel kiki camarena got a broom up his ass lol for helping these gavachos who honor him with dare week at schools lol caro is still alive partying in jail he has everything he could possibly have lol doing it hes doing better than that snitch kiki if he would have kept his mouth shut mexico would be a better place instead of the us looking 4 druglords they should kill all there white junkies lol fucking tweekers lol I love borderlandbeat its the shit good reporting guys

    4. U dumb,uneducated,illiterate,low scum bucket piece of shit:If u criticize the agents who r protecting the us&mexico alike,then wtf are u doing in the USA?!LOLGET THE FUCK OUT!IF UR FAM WAS KIDNAPPED&TORTURED,U WOULD WANNA KNOW WHO DID IT,RIGHT?SO,STFU U PIECE OF SHIT

  2. I could not disagree more...I suppose ones perspective would depend on what side of the law he/she is.

    but you totally missed the point of the story. care to comment and reject that? Or do you know what that may be?

    1. As a reporter ur great but like someone else told u ur not a comentator why lower yourself to the level of some ignorant person chivis stay mentally strong also I just read a book by anabel hernandez called los senores del narco it was a great read that explains alot I totally recommend it

  3. Chivis you probably know the most of old cartel leaders what ever happend to eduardo gonzales quirarte he was the leader of the guadalajara plaza before nacho coronel do u know anything about him

  4. jaja dont know what the hell you are talking about hombre...eddie quirarte was from Juarez and was underboss of the Juarez cartel

  5. @12:21 Eddie quirarte u talk like if u know him just because he was from the juarez cartel don't me he didn't control other parts get you're facts straight

  6. It's unbelievable that at that time the US government sealed the border inorder to find one American that had disappeared. Now, with thousands of people being killed in Mexico and the US by these losers the borders are open and letting dope, money and arms flow. The DEA should really be investigating who is getting paid off on this side of the border. Someone is making money on this side. But after seeing the DEA in action all these years I doubt that they will do anything worthwhile to stop this problem. The letters DEA should stand for Doesn't Enforce Anything. The drug problem is worse now the 20 or even 5 years ago. What are we spending our tax dollars on....useless

  7. Feb 11th 12:02

    Your just a dumbass cartel groupie whos opinion means nothing at all.
    Even in his Death Kiki is more of a man tham you will ever be your filthy pathic little life.
    He is in fact an American Hero and his name lives on in the Great work of the Enrique Camarena foundations Red ribbon week, Reconized By every single school in the united states and honered and by millions of School kids across America. There are scholorships in his names and schools and courthouses that bear his name. He Left productive kids who have gone on and contributed much to their communities and families.
    What about you loser? What have you ever done and who will give a shit after your gone?

    1. Please don't pay attention to what this guy said. He doesn't know shit about special agent Enrique-Kiki- Camarena. He was the best, and was murdered in cold blood by some low life, cheap ass drug traffickers. When Rafael Caro Quintero was apprehended in Costa Rica days after he kidnapped Sara Cossio Vidaurri, the daughter of a Mexican politician, gave himself up without firing a single round when the Costa Rican Army went to get his ass. What a yellow ass murderer. Fucking coward. Drug traffickers haven't changed. Cowards 30 years ago, cowards today.

    2. So if our opinion dont matter urs means less this generation is fucked america is trying to get high kiki sHould have fought the war on drugs from the u.s. Kids in america snort bath salts to get high they sniff spray paint and airfreshner with a country so determind to get high its no wonder there killing eachother in mexico to get drugs here

  8. Look at the CIA in this so called like case Iran contra !!!

  9. Back then there was a lot of talk about the Kuykendall brothers. James and David. They both worked in law enforcement. They were the best in south Texas. Straight as an arrow, and tough as steel. They were simply the best. Even the guy running the Juarez Cartel, Gilberto Ontiveros aka El Grenas would turn yellow just knowing that this fine agents were close to the border!

  10. Ye man,and all yall are tough guys,talking shit ,who are the type who would take off into the abyss and never look back at the first sign of violence on a subway,bus,shop.Stop with the hard guy shit,Camarena had a dangerous job,and he paid the fuckin price,all yall motherfuckers are gonna die someday,which i think is funny,cause i know what kind of fuckin scared little sheep you all are.

    1. And what have you done? Nothing! At least I fought in Nam during the 1968 Tet Offensive with the 196th lib., 23rd infantry division, the Americal division, and if I was young again I would take any of those murderers hand to hand anytime. It is so bad that I am 65 years old.

  11. I know this story explains how the drug war started in Mexico in February 1985 with Mr. Camarena's tragedy but I always wondered did
    this event PROMPT Pablo Escobar to attack the Palace of Justice in Colombia to rid Colombia of all their extradition documents later on in November of 1985???

    In the beginning of 1985 the U.S supposed War on Drugs began against Mexico later on in the same year Pablo Escobar declared war on Colombia to supposedly prevent his extradition to the U.S.

    I wonder after the DEA'S passionate pursuit for Justice in Mexico prompt Escobar to attack the Palace of Justcie of Colombia in late 1985. (Nov. 6)

  12. I remember doing a homework assignment when I was going to college back in the 90's. I tried to do my research on this particular story because I wanted to know how this so called war on drugs started. I pretty much got all the information I needed at the time but what has always remained a mystery is, Did this tragedy that happened to Mr. Camarena have anything to do with Pablo Escobar attacking the Place of Justice in Colombia later on that year in November? How close was the aliance between Mr. Escobar and the Guadalajara Cartel?

    Did he feel after the take down of his Mexican friends he was next?

    Or did he feel that after the take down of a Mexican Cartel the U.S. would keep taking their war on drugs south to him?

  13. Costa Rica has no army.

  14. February 11, 2012 8:52 PM
    "when the Costa Rican Army went to get his ass."

    Costa Rica doesn't have an army, haven't have one since 1948

    1. They do have a military type police.

  15. James "Jamie" Kuykendall was as tough as they come as an Agent of the D.E.A. He was with Kiki in that single small squad in the Heart of the Smugglers Den in Gudalajara. This small elite Team of special agents went and set up camp deep in the heart of the Gudalajara Cartels main stronhold and shook them to thier core. The cowards cartels suddenly were confronted with a new reality , that the Americans were there and there to stay and things would never be the same for them again.
    We all Americans owe a Big thanks to the good Folks like Jamie Kuykenduall and Kiki Camarena, real heros and soilders who stood up to the evil ones and won the wars thet they personally waged. Its unfortunate that Mr. Camarena was killed in the battle ,but where you deal with trash things like that can happen. If anyone things otherwise go ask, Caro Quintero the worthless old fart , caged like the filthy dog he is or Fonseca, living as a man bitch in a Mexican Prison or Felix Gallardo ,slowly rotton away in a filty place. Ask then how it went?
    Ask them if they are Sorry for messing with Kiki and Jamie K?

  16. So who captured Caro Quintero in Costa Rica?

    1. The Costa Rica Special Operations Police.

  17. Chivis I like your news articles and I know you have a lot of knowledge on many things, but I believe that now that you are a reporter on main board you should limit yourself on comments and point of views. It has nothing to do with you as a person, is just about work ethics.

  18. feb 12th 1:51

    The D.E.A . C.I.A and the Costa Rican Military.

  19. Fools NEVER should have messed with the U.S. DEA! Its been downhill ever since and the U.S. will keep grinding away until there is no more fucking sewer scum cartels...

  20. Re: ools NEVER should have messed with the U.S. DEA! Its been downhill ever since and the U.S. will keep grinding away until there is no more fucking sewer scum cartels...

    What the hell are you talking about dumbass. Last time I checked ICE doesn't deport anyone and well the DEA has yet to do anything about the TONS of drugs flowing into this country, or the billions of dollars going abroad.


  22. yes ask them cause they are still alive ROFL!


  24. February 12, 2012 4:48 PM .Never happen,the silly old fart takes any kind of criticism very seriously.How anyone has the effrontery to tackle her on any subject,of which she is the great sage and onion balls.She got a huge amount of time and assiduously and diligently peruses every comment and then starts to insult people?Oh well she is a woman,of sorts.Look at this fool above"8:35 AM "THE US SENDS DRUGS AND GUNS TO POOR NEIGHBORHOODS?HAVE YOU STOPPED TO THINK THE SAME THINGS HAPPEN IN EVERY NEIGHBORHOOD?YES,EVEN WHITE ONES,THAT YOU RACISTS HATE.SO GROW UP AND TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR OWN COUNTRY'S PROBLEMS,BECAUSE THEY ARE SELF MADE.ITS THE CULTURE THAT YOU LOVE,ITS THE MEXICAN CULTURE,NOT OURS.EL CHAPO,LAZCA,ARE THEY US MADE?Then again according to you they probably are.Foolio.

  25. feb13 3:09

    Yea living as Bitches in a filthy Mexican prison, caged like the dirty stinking dogs that they are. They are The 3 sinaloance queers who are had by other prisoners as little bitch women LOLOLOL!!!! They are Nothing but pure shit!!!

  26. Perhaps some of you DEA nut huggers should do your homework.Camarena was up to his neck in the drug trade,one of his old classmates in Valle Imperial was a man by the name of Francisco Carrasco.It was through him that "Kiki" hooked up with Caro Quintero & allowed all of those tons of sin-semilla to be smuggled in gas-tankers through the port of Mexicali.Good 'ol greed got the best of "Kiki" & he asked for a bigger cut.When they turned him down,he busted up "El Bufalo" in Chihuahua & another huge field in Zacatecas/San Luis Potosi border.But thats one incident the U.S government will never admit to.Just like the Ollie North case...The U.S is always squeaky clean...wink-wink!Ask around the Valle,about "Kikis" dopefiend brother.Get your facts straight before commenting on something that plenty of you have NO knowledge of!!"Kiki was as croocked as the Rumorosa...

    1. It's always nice to hear the other side of the story.

  27. Caro Quintero bought his way out two years ago and lives in Guatemala.

  28. FEB 15 6:27

    LOLOL!! Yea Sure he did!
    Hes in Mexico city living as a Bitch whore for the prisoners who have thier way with that shit eatting worthless asshole!
    Fuck Rafael Caro Quintero!!! Hes a sorry piece of monkey shit!!
    I'm glad hes rotton in his stinking prison, grave. He will die in the cage where he lives.

  29. @ DFL,Dude you must have been sucking Camarenas penis or the DEA is doing you!Do your homework on Caro Quintero & find out for yourself all the good things he did for his hometown of La Noria.He had electricity installed for the whole town,as well as paved the streets & build schools.He donated huge trucks of blankets & food for the people in the Mexico City earthquake of 85.What the fuck have you done you sorry ass key-board warrior?You cant even spell you ignorant coward!By the way,the other prisoners would bitch slap YOU & have their way with you if you stepped into that prison bad mouthing Quintero!Eres un verdadero pendejo!

  30. Feb 15 11:11
    It sounds like you were bent over in jail also like your loser piece of Shit Caro Quintero. Fuck him and you. You both are worthless shit patties!!
    Your boooyyy Caro loves little boys and girls and was arrested with a 13 year old little girl.
    Hes a sick asshole who gets his love now from other male prisoners who have thier way with him.

  31. @ February 18, 2012 7:50 PM you're a joke dude!If you are referring to Sara Cosio,she wasnt 13 you moron & the family covered it up saying Caro Quintero abducted her.It is obvious that it trully pains you to see that Caro Quintero is & will always be remembered,respected & maybe even more loved than that croocked DEA agent who you idolize.Go to El Centro Cal & Calexico & badmouth Camarena & no-one will give a shit about him or even know who the hell he was.Then try that in Sinaloa,especially La Noria & reality will kick you in the ass,right after someone bitch slaps you!You DFL,are pathetic...February 15, 2012 11:11 PM

  32. February 19, 2012 10:18 PM If he was such a blessing why did he get arrested for?.

  33. @ February 20, 2012 2:23 AM in response to your question...he was arrested because the good 'ol U.S.A pressured Mexico to do so.The U.S. will never admit to any wrong doing by its Law Officers,not at that level.Ex D.E.A agent Mike Levin has exposed some of the governments dirty work & yet he was discredited.Wake up everyone,& do your homework,the "War on Drugs" is a business for both Countries.

  34. Kiki Camarena should've fought the "War on Drugs" in his own front yard,El Valle Imperial.His own brother was a tecato & anyone familiar with the Valle can tell you they have their fair share of addicts.A good judge begins with his own home...

  35. Fuck that piece of shit druggie he was no one without his hobo ass the DEA wouldnt be the entity it is today, it was an excuse to enter mexico and fuck everyone over US biggest business weaponry biggest mexican business Drub cultivation Smuggling DEA had a fucking 6x6 desk in gdl Jalisco fuck this piece of shit and all DEA

  36. @ anon February 22, 2012 4:17 PM,Glad to see people on this forum that really understand the U.S government...

  37. 11:11 PM great comment

  38. Sounds to me like this Kiki fellow was a corrupt asshole sticking his nose where it didn't belong and he got it cut off. Good riddence. As long as the U. S. continues to try to govern the morality of other countries there will be dead Kikis (thank god).

    And just because they made a red ribbon week for that jackass, that doesn't mean he made some great contribution to humanity. I'm sure that the Germans had a red ribbon week for Hitler, too. Camarena is honored for making a stupid mistake that got him killed. He underestimated his enemy. And it sounds like he fucked with the wrong guys. Not really red ribbon material if you ask me.

    One of the comments above said that that Quintero fellow put electricity in an entire town out of his pocket. Would that Camarena fellow go into his pocket for strangers like that? Probably not.
    I think that that idiot, Camarena, was arrogant for thinking that he could fuck with the establishment in Mexico with impunity. He and the DEA got put on notice.

    DFL. You call the drug dealers that killed that p.o.s. cowards. I call them heros that stood up to the bullies in the Washington. More people should.

    And to the idiot that thinks that those kingpins are "getting it in the ass" you are truly fucking stupid. They are multimillionaires. They are treated like royalty in mexican prison. They get beautiful prostitutes and liquor. They have cable and a cell phone. They probably have a much better life and get hella more pussy than a loser like you. THATS WHY YOU HATE THEM.

    It is obvious to me that DFL is a fucking cop. You jackass cop. Couldn't hack it in the private sector? You hate the drug dealers because they drive nice cars, have sex with beautiful women, and live in big luxurious homes. I am sure that if you had the opportunity and intelligence you would be a drug dealer too. IF I WERE YOUNGER AND HAD THE CONNECTIONS I WOULD!!! lol

  39. in part of the tape of Camarena being interrogated, the questioners ask Camarena "if we pay you good money, why do u want to fuck us over?" (Camarena busted El Bufalo). Fonseca was said to want to negociate with this "hero cop" who was no angel. They beat the shit out of him, irate at his betrayal (Camarena was said to hang out with the Jalisco state cops and the 3 Sinaloenses). doing undercover work or not, he was in too deep. got caught. paid the price. What, America doesnt have crooked agents? Are they all but kicking heroes like Chuck Norris? Also, Caro Quintero and Fonseca left the house at 881 Lope de Vega and when they came back they found out Camarena and Avelar had been whacked by a "mystery" group of well dressed men who arrived at the house. Probably DFS agents (Mexico's secret police) trained by the CIA. The CIA allowed Caro to operate in exchange for him to allow his properties to be used by the Nicaraguan contras for training excersizes. Miguel Nazar Haro, DFS chief was a protector of the Sinaloan drug lords AND a CIA asset... dont say the US is straight and Mexico is crooked. EVERYONE IS DIRTY...why doesnt anyone talk about that anymore? I have all this info on good info... a person i know was a Jalisco State cop from 1982- 1986.

  40. camarena just like any other agent knows the consequences of total commitment to his or her job and the same goes for cartel kings, so when someone gets popped or jailed wether you carry a hypocrite badge or a grenade launcher you knew the consequences so you met your fate. Quit playing the tough gringo card, dont stick your nose where it doesnt belong. December 22 2012

  41. Viva kiki camarena!

  42. "I'm pretty sure Caro Quintero will spend the rest of his life in prison in Mexico"

    hahaha, fucker is out of jail!


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